Sunday, December 9, 2012

The Making of Ezren

So the hubby wanted me to make an Ezren costume (an iconic character from Pathfinder). We planned it for months: choosing fabric, picking patterns, buying props. And suddenly it was 2 weeks to GenCon, where the costume was to be premiered. In an all-out sewing frenzy, I made this costume in 9 days. An impressive feat for my somewhat novice skills. This was also my first time to create a costume from a known character. Since it's not really a technically-challenging costume, I'll share the highlights of design and construction for anyone interested.

Illustration of Ezren

Fabric - linen would have been ideal for the character, but it wasn't on sale the day I went to the store. I bought a linen/rayon blend, which is cheaper per yard and has the added bonus of wrinkle resistence. The downside was the color - not as deep a blue as we would have liked. Lining was with cotton. Pants were also cotton. Heavy craft interfacing was used for the front panel.

Ezren costume Day 1 of 9

Cutting interfacing for belt, front panel, and faux sleeves

Patterns  Ezren's costume has many layers, even though simple in design. The hubby and I discussed at length the various ways to achieve the layered looks without actually adding too many layers. The shirt was a basic short sleeve pattern with gold trim on the sleeves and lacing at the neckline and short misson-style collar. I used McCalls 5907 as a base for the ankle-length robe/tunic with hook and eye closure in back. I altered the pattern to add a V-neck, open the side seams down to the waist, and add a front slit. I added a facing to the v-neck part since the linen was so soft. I also added the faux sleeves inside the tunic to create the layered sleeve look. The sleeve inserts are attached along the neck line from the back closure almost to the bottom of the V-neck.

Back lacing on belt

The "overskirt" panel layer is just an elastic pull-on "skirt" with the shape of front and back panels drawn out as needed to achieve the front and back slits and the curving at the sides. (Two pattern pieces cut on the fold, with fold down casing for elastic) The top front panel was combined with the fabric belt into one piece. The belt and panel pattern was self-drafted. The belt is pull-on, with lacing in the back to adjust the fit.  The hood and mantle were modified from the M5907 pattern to be less full. Pants are simple elastic pants from Butterick 4574.

Runes painted onto edge of faux sleeve

The runes and edging were painted on with a brush. After testing a variety of paints and colors, I used Jaquard Lumiere fabric paint. Remember not to use fabric softener when you prewash your fabric. I bought some fabric painting brushes, and that was a great decision. I usually go with cheapest, easiest tools I have, but sometimes you have to buy the right tool for the job. Found a nice little set at Hancock. The runes are actually The Charm of Making translated into "old elvish" Tolkien-style. I did mark the edges of the border stripes before painting, but the stiff brush made it easy to keep the lines a uniform width. I only did one coat of fabric paint, although I did use heavy coverage.

Runes and trim on upper part of tunic

The trim on the belt, front panel, and paneled overskirt are double-fold bias tape. I topstiched it since I didn't have the time to do anything else. The outside corners are not properly mitred. I did fold them under to look like they were. (from a distance anyway!) The parts that gave me trouble were the sharp inside corners on the panel skirt. Found lots of tutorials for making that turn with single fold tape, but few for double fold.

Lower half with front panel, overskirt, tunic, pants, and boots
I had been collecting new and used pouches and belt accessories on ebay for months. I prefer to buy used items when possible, but some items are new. The double pouch on the baldric is an old ammo case and one of the belt items is an old camera lense case. The jewelry parts were from Hobby Lobby and Joanns. The jewels on the panel skirt are earring bases with hoop bits snipped off and then painted a less garish gold (non-toxic primer and regular craft paint) Then acrylic gems were glued on. The pocket watch came from the thrift store ($3) and we painted the outside face blue (it had a duck on the front).

Boots came from Amazon. Hubby adds gel inserts to make them wearable. This pair has a weird plastic feel on the inside, so they don't breathe well. But they look great! We don't have the right gloves, a cross-bow, or staff yet. The only other thing he was missing was the white hair. We'll see if he's up to wearing a wig next year. The hubby was pleased that he tied for first in the Paizo costume contest at GenCon.

Ezren art by Wayne Reynolds

Wicked "Cabbage" update

So, um, it's been a while since I updated this blog. Oh well, I'm back for now.

So, here's a picture of the initial stage of the "Cabbage" (inspired from the musical Wicked) costume worn at DragonCon. I have to say my sister loved the skirt. And I loved making it. I've made some improvements since then, which I'll discuss below.

One of the foreseen problems was how much the skirt might be weighed down by the peplum of the bodice lying on top of the skirt. The skirt did lose some fluff, but was still pretty big. In this picture, there are two plastic hoops in the skirt. I've added another hoop in the middle and that has added some support to carry the weight. I also removed some fabric at the top of the skirt to make it sit higher on her waist. (Really I just made a new fold for the drawstring casing)

The other foreseen problem was that the bottom layers of tulle rolled inward toward the legs. One tip for this that I read about for real tutus was to hand-tie the layers together. I tried that to a limited extent. I made about 20 ties with regular thread connecting the botton 5 layers and that didn't really seem to do anything noticable. And I just wasn't interested in tieing each layer together (Lay-zee). Sooooo, I added a casing to the inside of the skirt base, just below the bottom layer of tulle, and stuck a piece of plastic "boning" in there. That worked to keep the bottom layers rolling in on your legs - BUT it limits the range of motion in your legs. You can still stand with legs wide apart and walk in big strides, but definitely no high kicks in this thing.

One thing to keep in mind - this free plastic "boning" requires some work to make it work for you in this skirt. It may be because I sewed the casings on before gathering the frills (therefore a lot more casing material to push the boning through), but if the tension on each little section of casing isn't just right, the hoop will rise and dip in spots. So you have to adjust it each time you wear it, and that can be time consuming. And then it will probably need readjusting after being worn.

Sewing the casings on after gathering may be the solution for next time. It will certainly reduce the frustration of inserting the boning. I have no idea how steel boning or the better plastic boning would improve the eveness, but I don't have the bucks to test it.

This is one of my favorite pics - I call it green monster eating my sewing machine

I didn't get good posed pictures of the improved skirt, but you can see how much "perkier" it looks. And the reduced leg ranfe from bottom inside hoop didn't bother her at all.